Monday, June 25, 2012

The Pallbearer: Harvests Part 2


When I still worked the wall, I was promoted to Supervisor for four hours and thirteen minutes. After pouring together the blood of four dozen Sleepers and twenty-three of my own men, they demoted me.

I didn't kill them. They just couldn't keep up.

That's why St. George blew apart the ceiling above Conduit.

That's why St. George blew apart the ceiling above my head.

That's why I was alone and walled in with my executioner.

"Neil!" Purring-static.


"What the fuck are you doing?"

"Protecting all of you. You can't handle him."

"You can?"

"Better than you. Split up and cut through the little corridors around the tunnels. Beast ought to be able to blast you a path through."

"That I can do. You take care of yourself little man."

"Are you insane!?"


I cut my comm link and turned on the external speakers.

"Are you ready to face your termination like a man?"

"Nah, not today. Thanks."

"Then... why did you wall yourself in here with me?"

"You'd have killed everybody else before dealing with me. That wouldn't have been any fun. This way, you're all mine."


The air split in half and lightning leapt from his fingertips. St. George was shouting in return. Incendiary shell met lightning and erupted. An orchid of flame. Static snowflakes.

We stood untouched.

"Nice suit. Brute X-20?"

"No. Colossus CJ-15."

"A new model already?"

"Just for you."

"I'm flattered."

"It is a beautiful machine. It will erase you."



"St. George is hungry."

He went silent. Every seam, every rivet glowed.

Feeding time.


"Where's misser Neil? Whass he doing?"

I kicked the wall of concrete boulders again and scuffed my boot. Goddamn it.

"He's buying us time. Bug-girl..."

"My name is Natalie."

"I give a shit. You, half the kids, and four of the tanks take the left side. Beast, myself, and the others will take the right."

"We should do something to help him."

"Like what? Burrow our way through? Beast could blow a hole in that wall and that jackass would close it back off. No, we do as he says and get moving before the Fomorian Guard gets here. No way they'll turn out the entire guard for just us, but one of them is more than we want to deal with."

The praying mantis girl nodded this time. Better. I pulled myself back atop Beast.

"Alright Nikolas, make us some holes."

Each of the tanks lined up and began firing, shattering apart the tunnel walls. The corridors the infantry had poured out of trailed deeper into the wall itself.

"See you on the other side Ms. Mantis."

"On the other Der Kitten."

Natalie and half the children scurried off after four of Beast's tanks, burrowing through the wall with volley after volley.

"Move out Beast."


Beast and his tanks surged forward, blasting out our path. They barreled through the thinner walls, crushing them beneath their treads. The children straggled behind.

"C'mon! Faster! Move it move it!"

A little boy, barely older than six tripped and fell. I was leaping from Beast, bounding through the pack of children. A hand on his arm.

"C'mon, hurry up or they'll leave you behind."

I was pushing him forward with my boot. A shove.

The ceiling came down just behind him. Not the room ceiling. Not the tunnel ceiling. The true ceiling. Light gushed down the hole as twins fell through, denting the floor.

Castor and Pollux. The Black Symphony's prized twin statues. One of their first major presents to Mayor Morelli.

I was screaming. Screaming for Beast to go. Screaming for the children to run.

I couldn't hear them.

"It is Der Kitten."

"Vaudeville's toy."

"She's off her leash."

"Bad bad bo..."

Pollux had his mouth open. I lunged for him, claws scrabbling for a hold. I filled his mouth with my luger.

"I hate twins that rhyme. Can't you two find a better act?"

I pulled the trigger and the bullet buried itself in the back of his throat. Pollux smiled around the barrel and bit through my pistol with his stone teeth, grinding it between them.

A fist introduced itself to my chest and whispered a dozen wishes as my ribs cracked beneath it. I landed with all the grace of a drunken mule and rolled across the floor.

"Kitten never learned."

"Vaudeville didn't teach."

"We will make her heel."

"Help is out of reach."

I bared my claws, backing into a corner.

No good deed goes unpunished. Fuck me.


"Miss Natty?"

"Yes Samson?"

"Will Misser Neil be okay?"

"I'm certain he will."

She was frowning again.

"You're fibbing. Your feelers are gettin' all wobbly."

Through the green I'm certain I blushed crimson.

"Now Samson, just... believe me. I'm certain he'll be fine. Besides, you need to keep a low profile anyway. You and eveybody else only get to tag along so that they don't run away when we try to rescue them. I wasn't supposed to bring you along at all in the first place."

The tanks were shouting.

"Come! We breaking through! Must go faster!"

I opened my jaws to speak.

Movement. Rear and to the right. Spinning.

I slammed by scythe arms into the ground, skewering a reinforced door, fallen from its hinges. I spun sideways, a swarm of bullets railing against the door.

"Go. Get a move on. Samson, you watch over everybody. I'll hold this one here."

"Miss Natty..."


My mind saw her running in black and white, racing off after the tanks. She stayed half turned as they burrowed their way through the walls.

The bullets stopped. I lowered the door.

He whirred. Click-whirred. Spun and rattled beneath upholstered skin.

"Why it's the hellspawn. Uriel wondered where you had gotten to."

Solomon. A prized Disciple, one Adam 2.0's original apostles. Given to Mayor Morelli in return for a blind eye in Takt.

He was no giant, barely six foot tall and slim by Disciple standards. A wireframe monstrosity with naughahyde skin. His eyes were real, the only part not scavenged from a corpse or factory.

Most importantly, he was out of bullets for the rifle he was carrying.

"I am no hellspawn, you degenerate."

"I am the word of Adam 2.0. I speak only the truth. I am the one that has been sent into the wilderness to chronicle the fallen so that their redemption may be conceived. The Upgrade will come to all demon."

I pulled a scythe arm free from the door.

"You disgust me Solomon. You are not as wise as you think."

"The righteous are always loathed by sinners. Fear not. I will purify you and the children that are with you. They will be baptized in their own blood and their salvation shall come in death."



"Outside the wall, they called me Lizzie."

""Lizzie" Borden? How quaint."

"Yeah. I taught their children as best I could. Tried to be charming and sweet. You know what I learned?"

"What's that sinner?"

"Sometimes, violence is the answer."


The seven of us burst through the wall only fifty feet away from Conduit and Neil's arena. You could hear the thunder roll from within their tomb.

"Form up! Make a wedge with the children between us. Nothing gets to the children."

"Misser Beast?"

A stick peered up from beneath a brown mane with empty eyes to stare at me. She couldn't tell where to look, so she just stared at my cannon.

"Yes little one?"

"Where is everybody?"

Probably dead. Dead for you. Dead for principal. Bah. Bad business. Fighting for a cause instead of cash. No performer works for free.

"Trying to keep you safe. We will protect you."

"I doubt that."

Cheese. Rot. Mildew. Roadkill.

Far up the tunnel, hunched over, wringing vicious fingers; a rat. Short and stocky, grinning through snarling teeth with jagged glee. A lumpy black suit and tie.

Some would hesitate, call out a challenge. They are warriors.

I am a weapon.


All seven of us erupted at once, belching flame, shells driving in the tunnel ahead. Dust blossomed and as its petals fell away, he still stood, in the middle of seven craters.

"My name is Mammon. The Mayor doesn't like you. He wants you to meet my friends. They'll like you."

The rat whistled and snapped his whiptail. The shadows filling the tunnel pulled themselves from the floor and from the wall like old bandages. The shadows split, cut apart by knives unseen, and fell to the floor again as rats.

They all looked like him.

Legion Legion

"My brothers and sisters want to meet you."

Legion Legion

"They can't speak very well, but they love to play."

Legion Legion

The children were whimpering, pressing tight against the wall of rubble behind us. The sea of shadow rats started forward, slowing creeping in. A tide of red eyes and black fur.

"Quiet little ones. We will keep you safe... Have you... Have you ever heard a lullabye?"

"Misser Griblin sometimes sings. So does Miss Natty."

"Then I will sing a lullabye. Don't be afraid. Just music while we sing."

They nodded as the shadows broke into a run.

The first salvo erupted forward and blew apart their ranks, dissolving them into mist.

"Hush little children, find your lost dreams,"

We first the second salvo, bursting them. More poured forth from the shadows. Squeaking. Scrabbling.

"Where the stars are low and the moon it beams."

Again. Bursts of smoke and flame.

"Sing with wind and ride on the night,"

Again. Mammon was preening his whiskers. He winked at me.

"Curl up to sleep and bathe in the light.

Hush little children, slip into bed.






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